TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

Saving the Day-ta

As the summer days turned up the heat, my three year old hard drive started to feel the pressure.Hard drives typically have a long lifespan but it’s common to read about someone’s unfortunate experience with a failed drive. Whilst there are a gazillion backup solutions out available, there is also a primary storage option which used to be too pricey for consumers: Enterprise class hard drives.

Enterprise class drives are not a replacement for RAID arrays or secondary backup drives, but they are built to higher tolerances than regular consumer drives. Their typical quoted mean time before failures is around 1.2 million hours. By comparison most consumer drives are rated at around 25-50% of that figure.Many enterprise class drives are now available with the same SATA interface as consumer drives and have similar cache and spin specs. They also used to cost a huge amount more, but not any more.

The Seagate 500GB SATA enterprise drive I bought this week has a huge 32MB cache, spins at 7200 RPM and hit me for only $99. Seagate advertises this ES.2 range as being appropriate for business critical requirements and it was only $20 more than the company’s 500GB consumer drive from the same store.

This small amount of extra green pays back in bucketloads for enterprise class reliability. Although it’s no replacement for regular secondary backup, your data is more likely to survive the test of time in one of these. As anyone who’s witnessed a drive failure will tell you, that’s a small price to pay.

Neil Berman

Jun 29, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Guides, Hardware, Reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Gigabyte vs Lenovo: The Atomic Clash of the MIDs

I got some hands on time with the upcoming Atom-powered Gigabyte and Lenovo MIDs last week and I’m sure about one thing: the OQO 02 just became very overpriced.

Both the Gigabyte and Lenovo MIDs are expected to come in around $500, albeit running Linux. They both have usable, if very different, keyboards; they’re both eminently pocketable and both have Intel’s super-efficient Atom CPU which means tons of battery life. The Lenovo unit I played with even had an Olympic paint job; cute.

Who are they for? No-one really knows yet, but they’ll definitely appeal to the people who are (not) buying the OQO 02 and Samsung Q1 Ultra these days. The 02 is still languishing around the $1,800 mark. The Q1 can now be found knocked down to $800 or so. Neither is likely to match the atomic (pun intended) battery life of the Gigabyte or Lenovo MIDs, which is critical for a pocket computer.

Gigabyte MID has more traditional design and plenty of expansion. Both units have 3.5mm headphone jack:

Will there be Windows versions of these two MIDs? That’s not known as yet, but I don’t think it’s inconceivable. The Atom is certainly capable of it so I’d expect at least to see fanboy photos of Windows booting on one of these units soon after release.

The actual models I tested had modified Linux front ends which are cost effective, but the practical and performance advantages over XP remain unclear. My EEE 2G boots Linux in 25 seconds, but the XP version is not far behind. In fact the cost advantages are only partial these days, as Microsoft recently reduced the license cost for XP Home on ultra low cost PCs.

The Linux implementations on these units was okay with some sweet touches, for example the Lenovo employs an easy swiping motion to scroll through home screen icons. It also has a Mozilla browser named Coolfox – dig the family name.Having played with a gazillion different Linux front ends now, it would be nice to see a standard emerging. Perhaps we’re still a bit early for that but hopefully it will come in a couple of years. If this doesn’t happen then ultimately the consumer will suffer from having a learning curve attached to each manufacturer’s devices…a bit like cellphones but oh so much deeper.

Lenovo’s MID has an interesting pointing device and takes full size SD cards, unlike Gigabyte’s. Front facing cam is on both units:

Did either of the two capture my imagination? I preferred the Gigabyte’s keyboard layout and overall format, whilst the Lenovo is probably a younger choice aimed at pure surfing and messaging with it’s cellphone style keyboard. The full size SD slot on the Lenovo also gives huge expansion potential, compared to the Gigabyte’s micro-SD limitation. Whether either of them can be successful will depend on persuading people away from buying an EEE-type mini laptop which all offer a bit more (but in a bigger box) for less money.

Look at it another way: Five years ago everyone had desktops and no-one could persuade consumers to buy a laptop second PC. Now everyone has laptops and the 2006-07 challenge was to get people in the mindset of wanting something even smaller. That seemed impossible until the EEE came out and busted out everyone’s perceptions. Now Acer, Dell, HP and MSI are jumping in because it’s going to be a huge market. The same will happen with MIDs once the EEE-format market matures.

So although hordes of people won’t be running out to buy one of these MIDs just yet, recent history suggests that we will in a few years time. Hang in there MID fanboys.

Neil Berman

Jun 16, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CES Digital Downtown 2008

Digital Downtown opened today at the World Financial Center in Manhattan. This micro CES hopes to get end consumers to fondle cool tech today and their credit cards on the weekend. There were also some product previews of toys not yet available on J&R’s shelves a few blocks away.

The long awaited Gigabyte M528 came up for air on Intel’s stand along with a handful of other MIDs (Mobile Internet Devices).

This 800MHz Centrino Atom powered MID is super-light with a full slide out keyboard. The design is similar to the Nokia N810 and keeps the Linux theme alive with a customized OS loaded with OpenOffice and Skype. The keyboard feels good with a rubberized texture and the light weight (spec is 340g) means you can hold it for a long time without feeling like it’s a brick in your hands.

Whilst the M528 would be an awesomely useful device with Windows XP installed, its limited 4GB SSD means that this will be a challenge. Unlike the EEE 4G which packs XP and leaves room on the side for a 32GB SDHC, Gigabyte’s beauty only provides Micro SD expansion and current capacities are unfortunately small. On the plus side there’s a 3 megapixel camera on the back, a very low res webcam on the front and an 800×480 pixel screen which is a high enough resolution for decent web browsing. An unnamed source suggested that the M528 would ship in the US this summer for around $500.
LG showed off an LED-backlit LCD screen, due out for before the end of the year. It was noticeably more vivid than it’s sister screen and boasts a crazy contrast range of 1,000,000:1 (yes, you read all those zeros right). This gives really black shades of black and a heck of lot more of everything in the middle until you get all the way across the spectrum. (LED model on left in photo, current model on the right.) Pricing is expected to be at a fair premium to the existing model, but we’re not talking OLED megabucks. In fact although the image didn’t give me the wow I got from Sony’s OLED screen at CES, it’s a worthy contender at a fraction of the cost per screen inch. Better still it’s actually a real big screen product in 2008, whilst we’ll probably wait at least a year for large OLED screens to reach production.

Hitachi were showing off their 1.5 inch thin TVs, which we saw in January at CES. They still look great, but don’t hold a candle to Sony’s recent efforts.

With the obligatory customized Scion acting as gatekeeper, Pioneer were the party animals of the show. They brought their country-touring-dome-complete-with-DJ to bang out some tunes, with a funked-out trippy kaleidoscope ceiling.Inside was a homage to all things ICE, but as cool as Smart cars look on European streets they just don’t cut it with a sub in the back.

The show is being held across from Ground Zero, which was the site of the World Trade Center until Sept 11, 2001. For those of you who have not seen Ground Zero, it is now a scene of energetic building activity and will be the future location of the Freedom Tower. The first building to be rebuilt at Ground Zero was 7 World Trade Center, which opened its fifty-two stories in 2006. This is the top of it at 28x zoom (shot with steady hands and without a tripod, I used to be a surgeon – not).

Neil Berman

Jun 12, 2008 Posted by | Audio, CES, Computing, Hardware, Home Theater, Photo & Video, Mobile, News | , , , | Leave a comment


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